Poverty in Perspective: a typology of poverty in Scotland

Sets out 13 different ‘types’ of poverty across three life stages: families with children, working age households without children, and pensioner households.


The Scottish Government has adopted a multidimensional approach to poverty, in recognition of the fact that the causes and symptoms of poverty are wide-ranging, including factors such as health, housing, educational and social opportunities. For example, the current Child Poverty Strategy for Scotland 2014-2017 (The Scottish Government, 2014) contains a comprehensive measurement framework that addresses both the wide range of drivers of poverty and the impacts poverty has on the lives of children and their families. It includes a range of indicators under three key themes:

POCKETS - maximising household resources.
PROSPECTS - improving children's wellbeing and life chances.
PLACES - provision of well-designed, sustainable places.

People in poverty are not a homogeneous group who can all be helped in the same way. The particular combinations of causes and symptoms vary across different households in poverty.

In 2012, Demos and NatCen published 'Poverty in Perspective' (Wood et al, 2012; Barnes et al, 2012); research that used secondary analysis of the Understanding Society survey - a large-scale household dataset representative of the UK - to create typologies of income-poor households that reflected the lived experience of poverty. Twenty poverty indicators - including poor housing, ill health, low educational attainment, worklessness, low work intensity and lack of social support - were mapped onto the low-income population, and poverty types were formed from the way they clustered together for different sets of households.

This new project replicates the 'Poverty in Perspective' methodology, as far as possible, to provide a poverty typology for Scotland, using data from the Scottish Household Survey. We are not redefining poverty, or measuring it in a new way that replaces the existing income-based measures. Instead, we are applying a new model of analysis to the low-income population (using an existing income-based poverty line), to better understand the lived experience of poverty and generate new insights into how to tackle it.

This report presents each poverty type graphically, then discusses its key features. It also outlines the policy implications for each type, enabling policymakers to better understand the distinct approach needed to tackle poverty for each group.


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